This post also appears on DPBestflow.org
This is Part 4 in our series on planning a project (don’t miss Part 3)
The stage where all of the video elements are connected is referred to as postproduction. Here you will ingest the material into a computer environment so the files can enter the working stage. This is where the video footage and audio are combined, the story is refined so only the best footage remains. When finished, you’ll be able to view the completed project that you’ve imagined in your head. Postproduction can seem intimidating but if approached in a methodical way it can be straightforward.
Goals of postproduction
Like photography, the process begins with media management. There is a lot of data that needs to be backed up and organized. You’ll want to employ a formal process of transferring your data to editing drives as well as create long-term backups or disk images of your footage for your archives. You’ll also want to get the footage organized and tagged, deciding which shots you like or which ones are rejected. In the video world, this is known as making selects, and it can happen at a few different stages in post (on ingest, when building a project folder structure, or even in the editing timeline).The goal is to get media organized for editing, allowing you to be more efficient when it comes time to start editing.
The heart of postproduction is of course editing. Editing is where a project comes together: where seemingly disparate items converge to create a cohesive story. In any given project you’ll probably have shot a lot more footage than you will end up using. During editing you will choose the best parts and start to arrange those files sequentially.
As the story builds, other postproduction tasks will be undertaken. These include color correction and grading to enhance the visual appearance. Audio sweetening and mixing improves the quality of individual sounds and creates a balanced and compelling mix of all the elements. You may also have elements that enhance the project like title graphics, special effects, and transitions.
Determining what software to use
Deciding which software tools to use can be a very complex decision. The decision is usually a combination of factors which often includes technical needs, business requirements, and personal preference. It is impossible to tell you which software is right for you. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all answer here. You’ll need to balance out your needs and budget to choose the right tool. There are criteria worth considering as you make your decision.
- Cost: Nonlinear editing tools (NLE) run the gamut in cost. For example, both iMovie and Windows Movie Maker are included with Apple and Microsoft’s operating systems. At the next level, you’ll find tools like Apple Final Cut Pro X for Mac and Adobe Premiere Elements or Sony Vegas Movie Studio. These tools start to increase the feature set for the editor and run between $79 and $299. These tools offer significant more control over editing your video and fixing problems, but do have a steeper learning curve. But even the pro-level tools can be within reach of many video producers. Many choose to invest in options like Avid Media Composer or Adobe Creative Suite Production Premium.
- Ease of Use: Ease of use is very subjective, and will depend upon the individual user. It is important to realize though that video editing is a complex task. Be prepared to pick up books, training DVDs, and even enroll in a class to learn video editing skills. If you are going to invest in expensive equipment, invest time and money in learning to get the most out of that gear.
- Editing Formats: Different camera manufacturers have closer ties to certain NLEs, so be sure to investigate if your type of camera will work with a particular NLE. It’s important that you fully explore this important connection before investing money in technology. A good place to start is to look at the manufacturers web pages and see which equipment and video formats they list as supported.
- Multi-Camera Editing Abilities: The ability to synchronize and edit multi-camera video angles of coverage is becoming increasingly popular. When executed properly, a multi-camera shoot saves an enormous time in the post-production process. Once the angles are synchronized, it is easy to maintain continuity. Multi-camera options are available for most pro level tools.
- Customer Support: Be sure to examine how much support is available for a product. Look at the company’s website for an active user forum and tutorials. Does the company offer certified training classes? How many books or DVDs are published on the tool?
In a photography workflow, you may be used to selecting shots, then color correcting and post processing before layout occurs. With video editing, color correction and grading generally comes after assembly. It is standard to quickly assemble an initial edit, then get feedback from the team and client. Along the way, improvements are made as the video moves closer and close to a finished state.
The following stages are common for most video editing projects. Depending on budget, some projects may have additional stages added or deleted. For example a feature film goes through many more rounds of editing than a broadcast news story.
- Assembly: The goal of the Assembly Edit is to simply strong the right clips the the right order. Initial selections are made and the goal is to quickly create an edit that can be watched. This may be called a “radio edit”, reflecting the emphasis on the audio storytelling narrative. The objective is to get an idea of how long the video is running and get quick reactions from the stakeholders on how to approach the project.
- Rough Cut: The rough cut is a stage at which many elements begin to get added. It is likely for example that music may be placed (even if it is a temporary track for reference) and supporting footage (called b-roll) is added. Many other pieces such as graphics and sound effects may be missing. The project also lacks refinements like color correction and audio mixing. The truth is that there are likely several rough cuts, and as the producer, director, and editor interact with the video, they will reach a point of confidence in which the project is shared with the client or stakeholders for feedback. When showing a rough cut, it is essential that you identify what is still missing from the piece.
- Fine Cut: A fine cut is a video that is essentially complete. It is an attempt to achieve “picture lock” meaning that no more changes to the shot selection or the duration of the shots will be made. This version is done, but may lack some polish. The goal is to get the client to make any final requests while the editorial team begins final audio mixing and any tweaks to color correction and grading. Final graphics and other elements are generally placed. This is the cut that needs final change request made and the client’s last chance for budgeted change orders.
- Final Cut: The Final Cut is also called the Approval Copy. The goal here is that all changes and minor improvements to picture and sound have been made. It is the belief of the editorial team that this video is done. The client is merely asked to review that all changes that were requested have been made. This is not a chance to make new requests, and most professionals communicate in their contracts that changes made to the final cut are considered out of scope of their were not raised during the Fine Cut stage.
The delivery stage is essential to the successful completion of the project lifecycle. If you have completed a project it is time to both publish and archive the project. Both are typically part of the delivery process.
Many photographers feel that showing their work is an important parts of the creative process. Whether it’s publishing to the web, updating a portfolio, or setting up a gallery show, the feedback loop is critical to personal (and professional) growth.
Today, we live in an interconnected media world.
What’s on TV in the morning will be on the web and social networking sites by lunch and on a portable media player by the afternoon. So, it’s likely you’ll publish your projects to multiple mediums and devices to cover all your distribution needs.Your clients will also expect files that are ready for them to share. You will be called upon to create a variety of digital files for clients.Final Cut Pro X offers the ability to publish direct to video sharing sites like Vimeo and YouTube.
You’ll need to make a digital master of your project. A master file is one movie (a self-contained file) of your entire project. The basic idea is that a master file is generally the best quality it can be, which allows you to make many different conversions and outputs from a single file. Also, having a single master file allows you to easily archive a project so you can make additional outputs in the future without having to reload the whole project.
It is also considered a good idea to invoke the media manager in your editing tool to gather all of the assets used in a project. This collection should then be archived to long-life media (such as LTO tape or Blu-ray Disc) to allow for proper backup.